Zucchero

Fly

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Although not particularly well known in the United States, Adelmo "Zucchero" Fornaciari has been a fixture on the Italian rock scene since his 1985 debut. In 2005 he helped to introduce himself to the American public when he released Zucchero & Co., an album of duets with artists like Sting, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, and Sheryl Crow. The next year, with the help of producer Don Was, Zucchero issued Fly, a record that, though it is sung in Italian, has enough comfortable adult pop elements that it should probably appeal to foreign listeners as well as to his compatriot base. Zucchero's always been a fan of the blues, and this continues to be shown on Fly, a third of whose songs are interpretations of 12-bar-influenced white rock. "Un Kilo" -- rumored to be about Vasco Rossi -- while not exactly raw or gritty, shuffles along nicely and has some slide guitar, and even some anger, in it. The latter especially is a rare occurrence for the album, most of the rest of which is comprised of slow, introspective, lovelorn ballads that all sound like something Peter Gabriel would write if he were Italian. The only song that breaks from this pattern in the '60s folk-rock-inspired "Cuba Libre," which hearkens back to the Mamas & the Papas or Peter, Paul & Mary, and has the fantastically catchy chorus, "Mi piace la lasagna, e poi mi piaci tu" ("I like lasagna, and then I like you"). Food references aside, Zucchero is very much focused here lyrically on the idea of both nature and space. Fly as a title was not chosen haphazardly -- the word is mentioned numerous times throughout the album, as are ideas of birds and the sky. Nature here can distance two people, like it does in the Billy Joel-esque "È Delicato," but it can also heighten their feelings, like in "L'Amore È nell'Aria." The repeated references to the earth and stars and sun do mean that things can border dangerously on the adult alternative, especially on cuts like "Quanti Anni Ho," in which Zucchero approaches his vocals almost like Andrea Bocelli, holding out his notes and ignoring syncopation, and even the work of the Roots drummer ?uestlove on "Pronto" and "Let It Shine" doesn't quite bring it up to a rock level. Still, Fly is an expertly conceived and produced album, and Zucchero knows how to convey emotion without getting overly sappy, which means that it doesn't take a knowledge of Italian to enjoy it.

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